1. Baruch 5, 1-9
- Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on
the splendor of glory from God. Advent tells us that the familiar assumptions
and expectations we cultivate about our lives – the present age – will come to an end. Now I hear about the age that will follow, and my senses are flooded with images. Let me spend some time with the reading, to gather my priorities and find the connections with the Gospel.
- Jerusalem has dressed up in God, with its splendor of glory, cloak of justice, mitre of glory. My words should stimulate our sense of sight, because
God’s people are being shown to all the world.
- Now a new name for the holy city. We know it well from our own striving for justice among peoples: The
peace of justice. These always go together when we talk about the peace that
comes from God, that peace we demand from the Lamb.
- See your children. The holy city will not hide itself before
a mirror, but will look upon the people gathered from the east and the west who
are called to live there – to be born there, as the psalm says. I rehearse
a sense of depth in my voice as I say these words.
- It is God’s work, the prophet reminds us. We are gathered at the word of the Holy One, remembered by God. I look with recognition upon my listeners at this
point, confident in my belief that we Gentiles take part in the great homecoming story.
- God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be laid low.
I hear an echo of Second Isaiah’s comforting news, and the reason: that
Israel may advance secure. Can I be equal to this impressive nature panorama,
where mountains are leveled off and the depths and gorges are filled in? We will hear the promise repeated in today’s Gospel, in relation to John the
- Finally, the reading engages my sense of smell. We are engulfed by forests and every kind of fragrant tree. And I think of the fragrance of a massive, advancing and swaying candlelight procession
when I hear that God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory. To get to Jerusalem we must make a long climb, and the way I describe the procession
will show this.
- Climax: Up, Jerusalem! Stand upon the heights. Even the
least prepared reader will read this command with some attention. I will use
the words as a keynote for my listeners to remember, when the labors and long nights of December weigh them down.
- Message for our assembly: Advent is primarily a time of kindling lights,
of defying the growing darkness, of nurturing all the promises we hear.
- I will challenge myself: To leave the assembly with the positive call
to Jerusalem echoing in their memory.
2. Philippians 1, 4-6 and 8-11
- We have a greeting statement from the apostle to a church he loved. I pray always with joy. Let me listen
to this again and again, so that I can convey it to the church. How often do
we go into prayer in a spirit of joy? It is almost as if our petitions to the
Lord have already been answered!
- Your partnership for the gospel. Visions like this helped restore us to the inclusive calling of every baptized Christian in the church. Yes, the apostle may be a privileged teacher, but he looks on his fellow believers
- He who began a good work in you will continue to complete it. Are you humming the same spiritual that I am?
Do I believe it sufficiently, so that I can say I am confident with the
same freedom as the apostle?
- The name Christ Jesus is repeated four times in these two brief passages. I will link them with my voice, to make them sound like a litany, especially the first
glowing mention of his affection for everyone.
In this context, I begin to notice how the apostle ties his own feeling for the Philippians with the inexhaustible
human feeling shown by Christ for his own.
- And this is my prayer: that your love may increase. We heard this prayer in a different letter last week, but the object is the same. This time he describes the love as knowledge
and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value. There is a time-honored
Christian formula that urges us to observe “unity in essentials, freedom in non-essentials, love in everything.” This love is at the same time worldly-wise and innocent.
- Through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. So ends the reading, and so we close the Eucharistic Prayer. I will work to achieve the same high note.
- The message for our assembly: Put ourselves in the place of the apostle, so that our prayer include everyone who professes
the same faith as ours, whether or not we care to read their op-eds and blogs.
- Central theme: Our calling is an Advent calling, to prepare for the day of
- I will challenge myself: To reach the same level of effusive good will for a church as the apostle expressed in his
Gospel. Luke 3, 1-6
- In the fifteenth year… The evangelist had the intention of announcing an official act, and I will work to capture this solemn
air. That includes nailing down the person and place names, but that is only
- John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan. This expansive language calls for an expansive voice, and I will work on it. How would I say in one sentence that a candidate for elective office moved across
an entire state or nation? Or that a pope visited all the continents of the world
during his travels?
- A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. I hear another theme of Advent, and we already heard it in Baruch. First we repent, and then we prepare to enter a new life of grace.
- A voice of one crying out in the desert. The prophecy ends today’s reading, and I want it to sound sharp and decisive for our lives. I can practice raising my calling voice to a slightly higher pitch to remind everyone
- Climax: The word of God came to John.
The remote calling of the prophet in the Jordan wilderness is made to sound like the most important event of its time. I can find my news anchor’s voice for that.
- Message for our assembly: God works among us in unexpected ways and in unexpected places. Our hearts will inform us better than the mass media.
- I will challenge myself: To announce the coming of John with the majesty that it deserves.
From Word to Eucharist: Our
keeping of Advent is not in a spirit of mourning for what we have lost, but in eager expectation of the riches that await
us. Our simple communion meal in Christ the servant will be our greatest reminder
of how this will come to be, indeed, how it is coming to be.